Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Steropes' Leadership in Energy: DOD Head and Shoulders Above Munchkins

Steropes was the Cyclops who gave
lightning to Zeus

Last week I spoke in front of 1200 attendees at a Biomass conference in Denver, CO.  This Saturday, I will speak to students at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (Go Mustangs!) at the California Student Sustainability Coalition conference.  The following week I will be attending  and addressing the Military Smart Grids and Microgrid Conference in DC.     Veterans in clean energy technologies have been appearing in the New York Times, the AP and Dylan Ratigan Show.   Even the Harvard Gazette is getting in on the action, but instead of a veteran, they got a real live DOD official.   A coalition of veterans and national security organization, Operation Free works tirelessly to share the message of energy security.  Only one of these individuals and organizations represents or speak on behalf of the Department of Defense, yet there is constant demand from a diverse audience.  The reason is because so many of us are looking for leadership in energy policy and, not finding it in the appropriate government agencies, are looking for anyone to share a vision of American Energy Security.  Once again, DOD has become the reluctant leader.

I say reluctant because no one in DOD wants to lead U.S. energy policy.  Unfortunately for them, the actions they are taking to ensure energy security and mission continuity are thrusting them in to that role.  Those in and out of government, who ascribe political motivation to DOD’s work, fail to understand the strategic importance or, in some cases, even the tactical importance of reducing consumption, distributing intelligently and diversifying sources of energy.  DOD does not seek the leadership role.  They just happen to be out in front of the crowd and the crowd is following.  Where there is a dearth of leadership, DOD’s efforts to secure its own flanks by assured access to mission critical energy appears to be leadership.  DOD is simply the one eyed man in the land of the blind.  

The mission of DOD is to deter aggression and, should that fail, to fight and win our Nation’s wars.  When DOD leads in technology, it is not to create a market; it is to meet a critical operational need. When DOD integrated the Armed Forces it was to better utilize the available man (and woman) power to meet combat requirements.  I am sure DOD would rather that the Congress or President or DOE were the leaders in energy policy, but, unfortunately, they are the only ones taking coherent action.  Nature abhors a vacuum and DOD’s leadership in energy security is just Nature’s way of saying, “Move out and draw fire!”  Dan Nolan

Friday, April 20, 2012

Leading Change for America's Future: Operating Between Chaos and Stagnation

Great article in Forbes on how a former Director of the CIA sees how we can break OPEC’s lock on oil prices.  And OPEC itself.  A panel sponsored by the Carbon War Room and put together by Suzanne Hunt featured Navy energy maven, Kate Brandt discussing the effect of Navy policy on biofuels prices.  In 2010, the Navy bought 20k gallons of algae fuel at $424 a gallon.  In December, it bought 450,000 gallons of fuel from algae and cooking oil for $26.67 per gallon.  There are plenty of factors surrounding that price drop, but it is change that shows DOD investment can influence a market.

As well said by John McKenna, an investment banker, “If you can make biofuels for $1.10 a gallon, that’s $42 or $43 a barrel. Tell me why (biofuel makers) can’t make money”.  Not only could they make money but they could solve problems such as India is now facing regarding energy security.   Sruthi Cottipati’s piece in the NYT describes the Indian crisis: Indonesian coal has doubled in price and domestic supplies can’t keep up.  Forests were being clear cut to mine coal.  What if forests became plantations for biofuels crops?  What needs to change?

We are a nation is stasis.  People, organizations and countries must operate in a band of excellence between the chaos of formation (and reformation) and the stagnation of staying in their comfort zone.  Everyone needs disruptive events to move between the productive states of innovation and stability within the band of excellence.  The gridlock between our Executive and Legislative branch is driving the county into stagnation.   People change for one of two reasons: overwhelming opportunity or overwhelming threat.  In the absence of that, we tend to do the status quo.  The current dominant energy providers in this county and overseas see no need to change.  OPEC likes it’s strangle hold. 

 A new energy future, lead by America, represents the overwhelming opportunity that can lead us out of stagnation.  Biofuels and renewable energy technology, developed in the U.S., could be the answer to India’s challenge….and China’s and Japan’s and……    By the same token, the coming energy crisis for those counties (our largest markets!) and the looming economic disaster in Europe represents the overwhelming threat that will cause us to change.  We cannot wait until after the election to break the deadlock.  We, the People, must act now.  Contact your political representatives at all levels and tell them that government inaction is unacceptable.   The lack of a national energy policy is driving the country into stagnation.  We do not want to wait until the overwhelming threat forces us to change.  

Senator John McCain, a man I deeply respect and admire for his service to the country, continues to harangue DOD for its effots in this area. The Senator says that the military's energy security actions are somehow at the expense of other things DOD might be doing.  Perhaps, but he does not offer an alternative to pry OPEC's hands from around our throats, just the DOD shouldn't be doing it.  Who should, Senator?  Or are the interests of the entrenched energy industry in this country sufficiently persuasive that we must continue to put America's sons and daughters at risk for the sake of those interests?  I would be happy to hear your suggested alternative, not just, "No!". 

America was the country that electrified the world in the first half of the last century.  We computerized it in the second half.  We should again lead the world in the coming new energy economy.  If we do not seek out and embrace disruptive change in the form of a national energy policy then we face stagnation and the end of the dream.  Dan Nolan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Plugging the Biomass Hole: DOD Opportunities in the SE

Chad Lowe in SF Sentinel
Just finished up at the at the International Biomass Conference and Expo in Denver.  Over a thousand participants and dozens of companies were on hand to learn about and display the latest in biomass/biogas technologies and techniques.  I had the high honor and priviledge of keynoting the event, but more importantly, I got to learn a lot about a grossly underutilized, non intermittent, renewable source of energy.  While most of DOD's energy efforts have been in the southwest where the sun shines in low humidity and the wind doth blow, the southeast has not recieved the same attention.  At the base level commanders have been working hard to meet mandates and requirements, but the tools available to their brethern in the west have not served them as well.  Time to think biomass!

Although the conference was generally upbeat, various biomass trade organizations took to the stage to lament the inaction in Washington, D.C. that has resulted in the lapsing of investment tax credits and production tax credits that have served to level the playing field.  Now before you start slinging your "government shouldn't pick winners" stones, let's reflect on other fledgling industries for whom those same credits are not expiring entities but matters of fixed law (think coal and oil).  If you are a small business owner who has sat across from banks and investors who were reluctant to invest because, "we just don't know what the government is going to do" then you may feel free to engage on the topic.  If you are in the coal or oil industry, I will drop mine when you drop yours. 

The inactivity of our government to set energy policy or even act to preserve American industries and jobs is somewhat balanced by DOD's very agressive posture in energy.  Some of my closest friends,  who I respect immensly, have taken me to task regarding this point. "DOD is not in the green energy business" they say.  I agree.  They are in the mission accomplishment business.  That mission is to deter agression and, if that fails, fight and win our Nation's wars.  If oil cannot be used as an economic weapon against us, that is a form of detering agression.  If bases can access locally fueled energy sources which operate regardless of the public grid status, then the reach back capability so vital to our current way of waging war is perserved.  I would love it if Exxon or other "energy" folks were creating demand for biofuels; but they are not.  If DOD creates the demand, it is not just a "greenie" thing but a strategic effort to counter our dependence on a commodity we don't control (or set the price for, Newt).  By the same token, only grid tied, but independent energy for bases is true energy security.  It ain't a green thing; its a national security thing.  Dan Nolan

Monday, April 16, 2012

Preaching to the Choir: GSPEL Spread in Warren, MI

Not Actual TARDEC Scientists

Big week in DOD energy last week with announcements from the White House and Warren, MI. The pronouncements from the Potomac to the shores of Lake St Clair charted DOD’s course for infrastructure, transportation and operational energy.  First, to the outskirts of the Motor City. 

The Army’s Tank and Automotive Research and Development Command,  TARDEC opened an 8 in 1, Swiss Army knife of a lab.  The new 34K sqft facility has been years in development and was unveiled with smoke, flashing lights and music, but no visible dogs or ponies.  The lab encompasses test facilities for research and testing to be conducted on electrical systems, heating and cooling components, fuel cells, hybrid electric powertrains and advanced batteries.  Although focused on mobility systems, the new Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory (acronym: GSPEL) could provide testing facilities for smart power distribution systems and larger scale energy storage.  It will be able to provide for testing under extremes in temperature and other climatic conditions.  Any device certified as truly working could receive a big stamp: GSPEL TRUTH. Or maybe not. 

Senator Levin, (D-MI) has been a god father for the project to the tune of about $30-40 million in federal funding – including $15 million from the 2009 stimulus legislation. GSPEL increases the available lab space at TARDEC for the development of new engines, fuel cells and energy storage devices that the Army has been pursuing.  All of these technologies have direct and critical military applications AND positive benefit for the civilian world.  Maybe Clint was right; it is time for the second half and Michigan, not just Detroit, is back! 

More to follow on other news, to include promises in gigawatts, ARPA Energizer Bunnies and why the President is riding the good horse, DOD in the energy race.   If you are anywhere near the Denver convention center, 17 Apr 12 around 0800 MST, drop in an say hello.  It will be me and a thousand of my newest buddies chatting about Biomass. Dan Nolan

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chartered Course for DOD OE Data: DOEB Above Board

(Not intended to equate DOEB Charter
with Magna Carta) 

Good news for those of you who have been waiting with bated breath.  The Defense Operational Energy Board has officially approved its own charter.  On March 22, 2012, at what I can only assume was an adequately solemn signing ceremony, Lieutenant General Brooks L. Bash, J-4 and Ms. Sharon E. Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Policy, placed their signature on a four page document detailing the DOEB's authority, scope, functions and organization.  The Board has permanent members from the Service Secretaries’ and Chiefs' of Staff office, as well as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, ass’t SecDef for Logistics and Materiel Readiness and DoD General Counsel.  Counting the two co-chairs, that is a total of eleven folks around the table.  The Charter specifies that representatives must be in the grade of O9 (LTG) or SES equivalent.  The Co-Chairs can waive the grade requirement in case a mere Brigadier show up.

The scope of duties is very broad, accept where it might “infringe on existing statutory or regulatory authorizes” at which point the scope of its duties, like a point, becomes infinitely small.  They will have influence over anything that is not Title X.  As long as they don’t impact the Services responsibilities to recruit, organize, man, equip, train, sustain, mobilize, and deploy units then they should be good to go. The language used states: 

The Board operates to advise the co-chairs, ASD(OEPP) and the Joint Staff Director of Logistics (DJ4), within their statutory authorities. The ASD(OEPP) oversees the policies, plans, and programs needed to implement the goals of the Operational Energy Strategy. The Joint Staff is responsible for joint planning, doctrine, requirements, and oversight of Combatant Command activities.
 The Board shall not infringe on existing statutory or regulatory authorities, and shall inform and advise established processes, including the JCIDS and JROC; Defense Acquisition System; the
Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) cycle; and other existing governanceand oversight processes.

One of the first activities of the Board, according to the Operational Energy Strategy Implementation Plan, will be to receive reports from the Services to establish an operational energy baseline.  The specific requirement reads:

“the Military Departments and Defense agencies will report to the Defense Operational Energy Board (2nd Quarter FY 2012) an operational energy baseline, using all available data on actual energy consumption in support of military operations in FY 2011 and projected consumption in FY 2012 – FY 2017”

As the Vice President likes to say, “This is a big freaking deal” (not actual quote).  Since 2006 when I first started mucking about in this field, the question has always been, what is ground truth in regard to OE?  None of the metrics we wanted were being reported routinely through normal logistics channels.  No one was measuring the fuel consumption by point generators on unimproved work spaces, housing a massive IT processing center.  The fully burdened cost for a gallon of fuel was the stuff of legend and only fools talked about fuel convoys (convoys carry EVERYTHING, not just fuel).  Finally, there is the potential to establish the required database and then design metrics for continuing to monitor the data.  The mere act of observation will effect the data, but, probably, only positively.  So where does the data go?  Who will be the keeper?

In an era of dwindling budgets, there will not be a lot of people volunteering to take on this mission.   The Board has the authority to require the data’s collection but will have to pay for its housing and maintenance.   Further, the data gathered from Iraq and Afghanistan will be applicable to operations in…..Iraq and Afghanistan.   It will be better than much of the engineering data populating models and war-game, but one must be careful on how to apply the data to situations in which the same conditions do not obtain.  This will be a challenge for the Board, but certainly a step in the direction.  Dan Nolan

Saturday, April 7, 2012

USAF Seeking (More than) a Few Good Cyber Men and Women

[Thanks to my friend and Academy classmate Chris Davis (USAFA '85) for the heads-up on this recent Air Force news, and also to the folks at the SGSB for allowing this cross-post.]

Wonder if anyone in DOD has heard of the excellent NBISE, an organization dedicated to cranking out a better breed of cyber defense professional?  Anyone out there know Space Command's General Shelton, quoted within HERE? Maybe he could send some scouts to watch for talent at NBISE's upcoming US Cyber Challenge. It's open for registration now.

Here are a couple of plugs for the event. First, from the Hon. Mike McConnell former Director of National Security and Vice Chairman of Booz Allen Hamilton:
Our government and U.S. commercial companies are being besieged by attempted cyber attacks every day, and the nation needs as many resources as possible to prevent damage and the theft of intellectual capital. The U.S. Cyber Challenge offers a unique and exciting platform to identify the talent we need to defend our nation.
And here's Michael Assante, President & CEO, National Board of Information Security Examiners (NBISE):
The Cyber Quest competition and Cyber Camps are critical as our nation continually undergoes fast-paced changes in technology. Our growing reliance on digital technology requires concentrated efforts, like these, to identify and best develop the next generation of highly skilled cyber security professionals.
Please get the word out on this event if you can. Andy Bochman

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Different Kind of Weapon: We'll Attain the Future with Lasers

From DEB's FutureWatch desk, we bring you tales of 1.9 Gigajoules, and the potential to power all the world's grids sans fossil fuels. Bring on better electricity storage, and we may get to worry about other things in the future besides energy. There's security in that.

You may call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Dan is too. As well as the folks at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. See what you think. Andy

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mass and Unity of Effort: Hanging Together on RE

In military doctrine, among the principles of war, the concept of mass was always my favorite. Mass is the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time.  Until recently, that was the only thing, since my altarboy day long ago, with which I associated mass.  Since entering the energy business, I now associate mass with biomass and biogas.  As a recently minted "Methane Miner", I have been working to develop small landfills for their energy potential.  If you look at an RE map of the U.S., the southeast, which has a boat load of DOD installations, provides an opportunity with biomass.  Frankly, I don't know enough about the subject, so I am off to the world's largest biomass event in Denver Colorado this month to get my brain filled. 

The 5th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo will take place April 16-19, 2012, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.  Check out their website here.  Their list of presenters is very impressive with the exception of the keynote speaker (yours truly).  Normally, Groucho and I would never join any club that would have us as a member, but I am making an exception here. 

Another of my favorite principles of war is Unity of Command.  Where Unity of Command is not possible, you must have Unity of Effort.  One of the mistakes that RE producers make is to compare themselves to other RE producers and point out the shortcoming of that other system(s) that their system does not have.  Next thing you know, some boneheaded politician (I know, redundant) is bashing the Services for their efforts.  It is bad enough that the minions from K Street are strutting the halls of Congress with their message about why the status quo must remain the status quo, we in the profession ought not fuel the fires.  We do need an “all of the above” strategy.  As my friends at OpFree like to say, “There are no silver bullets; we need silver buckshot”.   We must all pull together or we will be pulled apart.  Dan Nolan